Conger still on Hawks’ free agency radar

STANDOUT: The Illawarra Hawks still hope to re-sign gun import Demitrius Conger. Photo: Adam McLean.
STANDOUT: The Illawarra Hawks still hope to re-sign gun import Demitrius Conger. Photo: Adam McLean.

Hawks coach Rob Beveridge has confirmed the club is in talks to bring back star import Demitrius Conger and he remains confident Illawarra will assemble a strong squad for the next NBL campaign.

While admitting Illawarra face stiff competition to retain Conger, Beveridge said the Hawks are keen to bring back the American import. 

Conger has undoubtedly become a hot commodity in the NBL after finishing second in the NBL MVP voting last year. 

Beveridge is hopeful of retaining last season’s club MVP, but was realistic about the challenges of retaining last season’s best player from league’s remaining foundation club.

With the NBL’s current soft cap, the Hawks continue to fight an uphill battle to compete financially with the competition’s big spending clubs.  However, Beveridge insists the Hawks are hard at work assembling a squad capable of competing with the league’s elite.

Those plans could include Conger.

"Some of the money the rich teams spend is ridiculous. With a soft cap they are able to do that but we have to be strategic,” Beveridge said.

"They are have to pay tax on what they spend over the cap, but that's something they are prepared to do.

"The reality is, we are a small team with smaller but very loyal sponsors.

“We can't afford to spend the money they do. We have to look at what we want to do with our roster. It’s not one of those things where you want to throw the baby out of the bath water. We want to have a nice blend with our experienced guys and some young talent as well.”

With some top names already off the board, including ex-Hawks young guns Nick Kay and Mitch Norton, Illawarra must build rather than buy their squad again.

They’ve invested in youth by bringing in college standout Emmett Naar, who penned a three year deal at the club on Wednesday. 

It’s a impressive pick up for Illawarra. Beveridge was ecstatic with the pick up but admits the club’s plans were altered drastically when Norton and Kay decided to defer to his former team Perth Wildcats.

“With AJ [Ogilvy] already signed, they were the two main ones we were looking at to build the foundation and then the big boys came in and threw a spanner in the works,” Beveridge said.

“I was confident they would be returning so I was really disappointed that they left.

“After all the work you put into these young guys, and you watch them grow and thrive, it’s hard to see the fruits of that labour gone.

“They are going to a good club and have chosen to go down that path but it is a kick in the guts.” 

Veteran swingman Tim Coenraad is expected to re-sign with the club to join both Naar and Ogilvy for 2018-19.

Australian based players Rhys Martin, Cody Ellis, Kevin White as well as Rotnei Clarke also remain on the Hawks’ radar.  Beveridge said Illawarra’s focus would be on bringing in an import guard, swingman and big-man for next season.